Nevada joins Wisconsin protests at Legislature
February 27, 2011
Nevada joined ranks with states across the country Saturday in a show of solidarity for the American worker, under the banner of “Save the American Dream.”
The Saturday protest in Carson City was part of a nationwide event in state capitals.
The rally of more than 100 protesters waved signs in front of the Legislature and chanted sayings like “Money for Kids, not for Koch,” referring to Charles and David Koch, billionaires who are behind campaign donations of tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans leading the anti-union effort.
The crowds have been protesting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to strip most public employees of their collective bargaining rights and force them to pay more for their health care and retirement benefits. Unions would not be able to collect mandatory dues and would be forced to conduct annual votes of their members to stay in existence.
Walker, who has refused to budge despite the protests, contends that the legislation is necessary for the state to deal with its budget deficit. But Democratic and union leaders say it’s a political move meant to weaken one of the traditional foundations of the Democratic Party base.
Similar rallies were also held in support of Walker throughout the country. The non-profit American Majority, through the website http://www.istandwithwalker.com, called for a “national demonstration of support for Walker and leaders across the country who have the courage to fight the public sector union bosses.”
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“This is the moment and opportunity for the tea partiers, and those who want limited government, and support the free market, to stand firm against the greed and dangerous statist philosophy of the public sector unions.” the group’s president, Ned Ryun, said in a statement.
Resolve was firm in Carson City Saturday.
“We’re trying to preserve rights of the working people, and bargaining is the law. We’re trying to preserve that,” said Genoa’s Gim Hollister, chairman of the Rural Democratic Caucus.
Paul Rutt, of the Lyon County Democrats, said collective bargaining has been around since 1952.
“Why do they always go after teachers first? Wisconsin is going to give out 6,000 pink slips – it’s ridiculous,” Rutt said. “The middle class has been around for 50 years. It built this country after World War II.”
While Gov. Brian Sandoval has said some changes to the state’s collective bargaining law are needed, he has declined to say what he thinks should be changed. Senior policy adviser Dale Erquiaga said Sandoval’s intention is to work with lawmakers on those changes, rather than draw a hard line at the start of talks.
Nicole Pavlatos, M.D., of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2152, said protesters were there Saturday to stand with the workers in Wisconsin to try to maintain a middle class.
“We want to break the stereotype that public workers and employees don’t work hard,” she said. “We believe public employees are what make this country run.”
Cindy Vargas, who waved a sign, “Eat the Rich,” said it was a shame working people were being told to sacrifice when rich people aren’t paying their fair share.
“They should be ashamed,” she said.
Christine Pinney said she is not a union person, but is tired of seeing what has happened to the country.
“The fight of the union worker is a fight for all workers, and I’ve seen it eroded,” she said. “I’ve seen the middle class eroded since 1980.”
Unlike the Wisconsin governor, Sandoval has not proposed elimination of collective bargaining for local government employees. In fact, he decided not to back a proposal made by Gov. Jim Gibbons to eliminate collective bargaining.
Some analysts predict the chaos in Wisconsin is actually just a foreshadowing of a broader conflict that will soon paralyze states across the nation.
• The Associated Press contributed to this story.